Think Green, Drink Red

When I was younger the adults in my life always told me to be passionate about what I wanted to do or be in life. I was told that passion for something, in addition to hard work and determination, could set me apart from my peers. I decided that if I was going to be working almost the same job my whole life I should probably pick something I liked, but I never understood how that would set me apart. imageYesterday the O-Chem group took a trip to Pomaio Winery here in Arezzo. I was probably the smallest winery we had seen, with very little variety in their wine and low production. But it was absolutely my favorite one to tour and learn about because our guide, Marco, was so obviously passionate about his career. The people at the winery wanted to make great wine, so they only live up to half of their production capacity to ensure that the wine they sell is the top quality possible. Even after four weeks studying I still know practically nothing about wine but I could tell that they cared so much about it. Another thing the people of Pomaio are very passionate about is being green. I think their views are why make great wine with shortcuts that harm the environment? It would just make life harder for everyone down the road. So they live and work my their Think Green mantra: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rethink. The grapes that they don’t use every year and the trimmings off the vines at the end of the season all go to make natural compost and mulch for the vines the next year. imageWhen Pomaio was excavating their rather excellent wine fermentation cellar, they used the boulders they disturbed to build part of the walls and foundation, which also gave natural humidity and temperature control. imageThey buy the cork for their bottles from companies who reforest after harvesting the cork trees. They have a company calculate their Carbon Footprint every year and they pay to help reforest the Amazon to reduce their Net Carbon Footprint to zero. They even bottle and label their own wine so that they can take responsibility for every step of production. And they add no chemicals to the wine beyond what is required by law to sell the wine across borders. Listening to all this, it was easy to see that they truly care about the wine they are making, but also they land they are working. Marco said something near the end of our tour that really resonated with me: We (the workers/family) won’t be here forever. We just want to make something that someone else will want to take care of. After all of that, we got to do the wine tasting. Which also happened to be my favorite wine tasting that we have done this month. imageWe tried a Rose wine to start with, and Marco gave us a short informal class on how professional taste wine. It was really fun, and the Rose was  amazing! I ended up buying a bottle to take home and share with my family! We also tried a Chianti, and Sangeovase, and a Merlot. I didn’t buy any of those because none of them are particularly my cup of tea (glass of wine?) but I could tell that they were amazing wines. They had a fuller body and more complex flavors than I have become accustomed to. And their bouquets were all very intense. I spent some time just smelling the wine because it was so amazing! Pomaio’s passion for what they do stuck out to me in a way none of the other wineries I visited managed to, and they inspired me to try and be more passionate about my own life. I am really excited to see if a new outlook with make any differences for me. And I hope that Pomaio continues to grow and thrive while they #ThinkGreenDrinkRed! image image

Buon Compleanno!!!

A girl in the O-Chem group, Kendall, had a birthday this past weekend (Happy Birthday Kendall!!!!) and the professors colaborated with her mother to throw her a mini party yesterday during class. But, since we are in Italy and studying culture, we had an Italian party! Someone found “Happy Birthday” on YouTube in Italian, we toasted the birthday girl in Italian, and (the best part) we had Prosecco and Italian style birthday cake. Actually we had two types of prosecco (but who’s counting) and Mille Foglie for the cake. I (apparetly) like Prosecco; it was a nice change to have a slightly sweeter wine, especially one with bubbles! Bubbles make everything more fun!!! The boquet of the wine was also interesting; more floral. You could actually smell the extra sugar. But the Mille Foglie really took the cake (can I use American cliches in Italy?). It means thousand layer cake. It has a bunch of really thing layers of cake interspersed with thickened sweet cream and the whole thing was dusted with powdered sugar. It even had chocolate bits in it!!! I personally have a massive sweet tooth, so I of course thought it was utterly amazing. Now I just have to find a place that makes good Mille Foglie in time for my next birthday……..

The Italian Job

I spent this past weekend in Venice and it was one of the best weekends of my life. I could talk about it for the next week and a half without repeating myself, and I could post about it forever. But I decided that I would only share the most important part of my weekend. As silly as it may sound one of the biggest reason I wanted to go to Venice for my long weekend was because of the movie “The Italian Job.” It gets even sillier when you realize that this movie is almost as old as I am, was never very popular, and only the first five minutes or so are actually set in Venice, or anywhere else in Italy for that matter. But the movie is important to me for one specific reason: its the first movie that I remember watching with my mom. I remember being really little sitting downstairs watching it with my mom. We would spend a lot of the movie just talking about how beautiful Venice looked, and how much we wanted to go one day. I don’t know if this happened often or if it was just a single occurrence, but it was a great time. So when I had the chance to go to Venice I jumped at it. And once I got there I made sure to track down the two locations that “The Italian Job” was filmed in. And find them I did. Italian job 1image             The scene in San Marco where the main character and the mentor lay out the groundwork for the heist and the movie.       Italian job 2 image             The scene in Campo de Barnaba where the audience first meets the rest of the crew. This movie has such great memories and connections for me, it was so amazing so see some of the places they filmed. Also, twice since I went to these places I have heard the them song from the movie. It was playing as if on the radio on two separate occasions. It was very interesting. This, of course, did not fill up the whole weekend. To be honest it probably wasn’t even the most exciting thing that happened to me that weekend. But, from my point of view, it was the most important thing that I did. I cannot wait to go home and share this experience with my mom. :)  

Spread the Love

I really like the food here. It is one of the biggest things I will miss about Arezzo, but I obviously can’t take it home. The worst part is that I won’t be able to share it with my friends and family back home; it’s not like I can package up some Veal Stew to take back across the Atlantic. But there is something I can do. :) This week the O-Chem group took a pasta making class, which was interesting for more than just learning to make pasta. We learned how to make Tagliatelle and Ravioli, both of which are egg noodles like the ones I have made a thousand times with my dad! It was really cool to find out that I was really close to making them already! We also learned how to make gnocchi, a pasta that is one part flour, three parts potato. It has a very interesting flavor and it very filling. Paired with the right sauce it can be utterly amazing!! Each student made a small batch of each type of pasta and then they were gathered up and cooked. We actually made our own lunch (and it was surprisingly really, really good!!)! It was really interesting to see the cultural differences in pasta making. When my dad and I make egg noodles at home we mix it in a bowl and roll it out and cut it on an old, clean pillowcase that covers out counter. But here in Italy everything was done on a wooden board, including the mixing! We used the flour to make a bowl for the eggs and slowly mixed everything together. It turned out to not be as difficult as I thought it would be. I’ve never made gnocchi before, so I have no idea if it is different or not. I was kind of sad making it because I knew it was not something I could make at home. My dad is diabetic and potatoes are definitely not a good food for him. But then I realized that I could substitute something a little healthier for the potatoes, like cauliflower, and be just fine! I’m really looking forward to bringing a little bit of Italy back to share with my family!!! :)

Coffee River

Let me start with saying that I don’t like coffee. To be frank, I hate it with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns. There are many things that I like better in Italy than in the U.S., but it’s safe to say that coffee isn’t one of them. And, in my opinion, espresso is one of the absolute worst things in the world. I did try the full Italian experience, having a shot of espresso after dinner as a digestive (no joke, it’s a thing here) so I’m not just saying that I don’t like it. But since part of my culture class covered coffee, I thought I should enter the unit with an open mind. Or at least as open of a mind as I was capable of. I drank the espresso, I participated in the coffee tasting, and I went to Coffee River.image Coffee River was probably my favorite part of the coffee unit. There was minimal coffee consumption (I had reached my limit at this point and had water instead) and a thorough explanation of the making of coffee, from tree to cup. It was crazy interesting! And the best part was that I like the smell of Coffee as much as I don’t like the taste so I was in scent heaven. The entire facility smelled amazing. During our tour we got to see one of their labs, their coffee bean roaster, the storage silos for the roasted and fresh beans, and the packaging process. My personal favorite was the coffee roaster. We got to see it in action! Once the beans were heated to the point were they crack (because of the moisture that is left after they are dried) they are spilled out onto a tray to cool and they are continuously circulated to dispel heat faster. Once they are cool enough there are transported to their storage silo through plastic pipes using compressed air! The best part was that Coffee a River uses solar power for 70% of its power consumption. I can defiantly respect that, even if they do make coffee! Despite having a whole section of the culture class dedicated to something I despise, I still managed to thoroughly enjoy myself and all of my cultural experiences. Must be something in the Italian air that’s making me more agreeable!!!

And you thought we had Problems….

This week we got to see some more of truly historic Arezzo. The city of Arezzo has been around since Etruscan times, so it has plenty to offer in the historical department. However, since I spend an estimated 10-12 hours a day in class or studying, there is only so much time I have to devote to sightseeing. Luckily this was a class trip, so all I had to do was show up. And, even better, this specific expedition was to explore the fortress that crowns the hill of Arezzo. A place sometimes referred to as the Medici Fortress.image image I was insanely interested in this excursion because I actually had prior knowledge of the Medicis. A very interesting, very powerful, very very mean family. The fortress was apparently built on top of the ruins of a castle which, in turn, was built on the ruins of a Roman town,which was built over what was once an Etruscan town. imageDuring the Middle Ages, Arezzo was an independent province next to Florence, which was ruled by the Medicis. They decided to acquire Arezzo and they actually bought it from the Archbisop (whether he sold Arezzo to avoid bloodshed or to line his own pockets seems to be unknown). Apparently the townspeople didn’t like the idea of being bought and sold, so they fought back anyway. The Florentines actually built extra fortifications on the fortress to protect themselves from their conquest, and even with all their effort they only managed to hold on for 40 years! Forget Texas, don’t mess with Arezzo!!image image image

Hello Stranger!

On Thursday we had another in class wine tasting. Normally I wouldn’t mention it because we have done a bunch of in class tastings: red wine, white wine, aroma tasting, vertical tasting. But this one had an interesting twist.
Several of my fellow students have been asking Dr. G how to tell if they will like a wine, or how to go about buying a good wine once we get back to Norman ( and become legal, of course 			</div><!-- .entry-content -->
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Adventures in Assisi

Before I left the United States I asked all my friends where they thought I should visit while in Italy. Everyone had their own favorite place that they were rooting for, but several people said flat out “If you don’t go to Assisi then you did Italy wrong.” I doubt there is actually a way to”do Italy” wrong and, since that sentiment mainly resonated with my church friends, I shrugged it off. Sure it would be great to see Assisi but I’m only in Italy for a month and there are a million places I would like to see. I had actually completely forgotten about Assisi until the day my OChem group took a day trip to Florence. On the way back Dr. G told the group that we would have some free days coming up. He gave us a tutorial on how to buy and validate train tickets, all the while talking about different places that are near Arezzo. I didn’t really give it much though, not planning on going anywhere. Why would I add the stress of foreign travel to the weekend that is my only time to detox from my insane class schedule. Then the professor casually mentioned that the Catholics in the group might be interested to know that Assisi is only an hour and a half away from Arezzo by train. I instantly locked eyes with Miranda, another catholic in the group. We were on exactly the same wavelength, agreeing to take a day trip the next Sunday. The following week came and went, a blur of classes, quizzes, exams, and wine. There ended up being five of us on the trip: Megan, Kendall, and James decided to join us on our excursion. It was only when we got off the train at the Assisi stop that we realized we hadn’t really thought this through. Not one of us thought about the fact that the train station could not be in historic Assisi. On the contrary, it was crowning the hill that was at least a mile and a half away. But we were determined. So we walked. All the way there. image Once we finally got to the city we decided to go straight to the main attraction. We got to the Duomo Supieriore just it time for noon mass. Afterward we toured the cathedral and saw St. Francis’s Tomb. imageimageAnd the we had no idea of what to do with our time. We were already halfway hump the hill, so we decided to finish climbing. We could explore the medieval fortress at the top and get a great view!!! We found out later that most people drive up the hill (we apparently walked more than twelve miles and climbed the equivalent of 90 flights of stairs). When we finally got to the top, the view completely made up for it!!! We pId out entrance fee to explore the castle; we climbed the towers, we crept though passages, we marveled at the fortifications! It was an amazing adventure that seemed to take us back in time.image We had to trek back to the train station after we left the fortress, which was probably for the best. Nothing could really have out shone that experience. I went to Assisi to see the cathedral and the tomb of St. Francis, and they were amazing; I am so glad I went!! But it isn’t the only thing in Assisi worth seeing!  

Giostra del Saracino

When I was younger I was really intrigued by medieval times and customs. I thought that knights were the most courageous people a d I couldn’t wait to become one when I grew up. Of course I eventually realized that I wasn’t going to be a knight, but that didn’t stunt my I treat in them or their society. I loved reading about medieval times, and I still do quite often. So, assuming that even half or what I’ve read is historically accurate, I know quite a bit more about the jousting than the average 19 year old American. So imagine my excitement when I realized that I was going to get to see a real live joust while I was in Arezzo. I was completely ecstatic!!! Visions of Heath Ledger as Sir William Thatcher danced through my head. The Giostra del Saracino, or Saracen Joust, is like a neighborhood competitor between the four Quatiere of Arezzo, and it is a huge point of pride for your quartiere to win. And people in Arezzo are as serious about this joust as Americans are about the super bowl. My apartment is in Porta Del Sant’Andrea so, of course I was rooting for that quartiere. And, even though we didn’t win, it was a dream come true to experience the joust. Everyone dresses up in period clothing or their quartiere’ colors and there were almost daily parades during the week leading up to the joust. The competitors didn’t joust each other (because that could hurt); instead they tilted at a Saracen mannequin hiding a shield in one hand and a cat-o-nine tails in the other. The representatives of each quarter charged the Saracen and attempted to hit the center of his shield. But hitting the shield caused the Saracen to spin and whip the cat-o-nine tails toward the horse and rider. Points were awarded for accuracy, but could be lost for dropping the lance, getting hit by the Saracen, or losing control of the horse. My quartiere did really well, ending up with eight points, and the winning quartiere only had one extra point. All in all it was a great joust and a truly unforgettable experience!